My secret for hunting deer is to hunt them based on trails and tracks. Learn what a buck track looks like. Get yourself a pick and a shovel. Soften every trail, so that you can really read the tracks. These soft-areas need to be about three feet long by one foot wide. You need about a half of inch of soft dirt. read the tracks, after studying the tracks and movement (direction) you’ll begin to see a pattern. Use a broom to wipe out the tracks so that you can see the next set of fresh tracks a day later… Some bucks travel the same trail every X number of days, it’s like a circuit that they travel. Log this stuff in a note book. Bring along a tape measure and a ruler. Measure the print size, the stride length and width. A big buck print will spread out and he’ll leave his dew claws when he’s walking. The longer and wider the spread and the longer the stride the bigger the buck. I saw a buck that left a track so big that I couldn’t believe it myself. He was old and gray, even the younger buck that was with him was magnificent… I’m sure big-old-and-gray died of old age.
Tracking is a Lost Art. A lot of what I learned was from an old Indian friend. I was very thankful to meet him and all that he’s shared with me over the years. I am hoping to share this Lost Art with my children. Every time I take them out, I try to teach them something. It’s amazing how much we overlook!
In the off-season (and I mean off-season) walk all the trails and build yourself a map. The best time is right at the end of deer season and probably a month before. Study the land. Be as low-impact as you can. Based on track directions you can figure out where they’re going to bed down and where they’re going to feed. For this you’ll have to read your track in the early morning. Reading tracks during the late evening has never worked for me. I think Blacktails are just too dang nocturnal. I like to do most of my reading of tracks in the middle of the day in full sun light (I can read tracks better that way). When I’m in a really good spot I’ll use survey tape and run it every 40 yards or so, it really gives you a perspective of the right place to hang a stand. Then I’ll go there early in the morning and study the wind currents. With three foot strands bright flagging tape you can really see wind currents. I study wind currents from 15 minute before shooting light to eleven and then from 4 PM until dark. Those are my prime times (although my Indian friend swears that the middle of the day is when he’s done best on the biggest of all bucks. He says that he believes that they don’t really suspect any body to be out hunting them at 1 PM. BTW, I saw the big guy and his friend on a secondary trail at 1 PM in the afternoon. Go figure.) After finding “the place”, I take all of the flagging tape off, since I don’t want to attract other hunters. I even park my vehicle in an unnoticeable place and walk in so I don’t attract any attention. I even try to keep my boot prints hidden.
NEVER forget wind direction. (It must always be right, if it’s wrong pack up your bags and hunt some place else!) Work on your setup based on trails, tracks, bedding, feeding, watering areas and wind-direction. Your draw must be undetected. Deer can see 270 degrees, if they see you draw they’re gone. If they’re traveling in threes then its really difficult because you have at least six set of eyes to fool.
Like I said before, putting it all together is half the fun. I’m looking forward to hearing other peoples input. I have a lot more that I would like to learn and pass on to my children. My Grandfather always said to “learn to walk like an Indian”. I have so much respect for both nature (God’s creation) and the old-way’s and I know so very little. – “C++”